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We Know Our Sources: BelGioioso

BelGioioso Master Cheesemakers

The following story was written by Heinen’s partner Alex Miles.

People don’t just like cheese. They love it. Why else do they say “Cheese!” when posing for pictures? It’s so happiness-inducing that it brings out the best smiles on even the most photo-shy faces. Whether it’s fresh or sharp, creamy, crumbled, or hard, consumers simply can’t get enough cheese. Some love it so much that they even wear it on top of their heads!

At Heinen’s, we’re BIG fans of cheese. As you stroll through any one of our stores, you’ll see that we display a vast assortment to fulfill our customers’ cheesy cravings. One brand that prominently stands out: BelGioioso.

Aging BelGioioso Provolone

Living up to a name that means both beautiful and joyous, BelGioioso carries a strong tradition of making the finest Italian cheeses. Available in more than 30 varieties, a quick taste of BelGioioso cheese instantly transports you to a scenic landscape across the world.

“My family has been making artisan cheeses since 1879 – it’s in our DNA,” says Francesca Auricchio Elfner, Vice President for BelGioioso Cheese. “In 1979, our father, Errico Auricchio, relocated us to the United States to continue the legacy.”

16 Year Old Errico with Provolone

The Fresher the Milk, the Better the Cheese

The Auricchio family opened their first cheese plant in Wrightstown, Wisconsin. Known as “America’s Dairyland,” Wisconsin offers an abundance of fresh, high-quality milk – an ingredient that couldn’t be more critical to the cheesemaking process.

“We’ve partnered with wonderful farmers who keep their cows happy and conditions clean – giving us some of the best and freshest milk in the area,” said Francesca. “The better the milk, the better it is for the cheese, which is our #1 goal.”

Wisconsin Dairy Farm

With a clear recipe for success, BelGioioso continued to grow, opening multiple cheese plants – each one dedicated to a specific cheese type – within 30-50 miles of the dairy farms. The close proximity allows the company to gather fresh milk daily and deliver it to each plant. When the milk arrives, 100 percent of it is tested at on-site labs to ensure its quality and the farmers receive a premium for continuing to deliver the best milk.

Throughout the recent pandemic, BelGioioso has committed to utilizing all milk, not letting any go to waste. The company even purchased additional milk to support their local farmers.

“We value the partnerships with our farmers,” adds Francesca. “Our Cheesemakers count on the high-quality milk to craft the best cheese.”

Balancing the Art (and Science) of Cheesemaking

Another key ingredient for BelGioioso: Their cheesemakers. When Errico Auricchio came to America, he brought along two artisan cheesemakers from Italy. Today, the company has seven Certified Master Cheesemakers, plus others who are currently in the Master Cheesemaker program which is basically a Ph.D. in cheesemaking through joint sponsorship with the Center for Dairy Research, UW-Extension and Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.

BelGioioso Master Cheesemakers

“Most of our cheesemakers have been with us a long time, and the training is key to our consistent quality”, said Francesca. “It’s not just their profession – it’s their legacy, too.”

The making of an exquisite cheese requires a delicate balance of science and craftsmanship. BelGioioso cheesemakers deeply understand the impact of time and temperature on the milk used to create their cheeses. They’re also well-versed in the ways to handle and modify these components to create the best flavors, textures and aromas. That’s where the art comes in. It’s like making a recipe with quality ingredients and knowing how to adjust based on the seasonal components of the milk.

Errico & Francesca in Cheese Manufacturing Plant

“Cheese is a living, breathing product that demands time, patience and constant attention to achieve the perfect flavor,” explains Francesca. “We pride ourselves on knowing the whole ‘story’ behind every wheel of cheese that’s handcrafted by our Cheesemakers.”

Pairing Cheese with Continuity

While BelGioioso remains rooted in their ancestral cheesemaking methods, the brand has evolved organically to meet customers’ changing appetites and needs.

“We truly listen to our customers,” said Francesca. “We introduce new flavors and make adjustments and consider requests that may help with innovation.”

Today, the BelGioioso brand offers more than 30 cheese varieties. Provolone was the first and long-time favorite, but over time, new classic and artisan flavors have risen to the top including Parmesan, Fresh Mozzarella, Crumbly Gorgonzola, Burrata, Mascarpone and more. As they roll out a new product, the team educates retailers and customers on how to integrate each cheese into recipes, snacks and meals. There’s even a comprehensive recipes section on the BelGioioso website.

Inspecting BelGioioso Cheeses

“We try to teach our customers about how to enjoy the cheeses,” said Francesca. “It’s a ready-to-eat food, just cut and serve, but if you are so inclined, try cooking, baking or creating a masterpiece.”

Quality Never Stops

Over the last 40+ years, BelGioioso has grown in size and strength. However, a remarkable attention to quality has perpetuated from year to year as well as from generation to generation. That’s why they continue to do all the cheesemaking, brining and packaging in house – to guarantee quality from beginning to end.

Auricchio Family

“The passion for producing quality cheeses has been passed down to us from our father,” said Francesca. “We all share in his passion for producing the finest Italian cheeses – and that’s something that will never fade.”

BelGioioso Soft Cheese Board

With more than 130 awards from the World Cheese Championship, the American Cheese Society and the U.S. Cheese Championship to name a few, it’s clear to Heinen’s – and our loyal customers that BelGioioso embodies what it means to be a premium cheesemaker.

By Heinen's Grocery Store
In 1929, Joe Heinen opened the doors of a small butcher shop on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio, aiming to establish himself as the city’s purveyor of quality meats. As customers came into Heinen’s new shop for their meat purchases, they began asking him to carry groceries as well. Joe added homemade peanut butter, pickles and donuts and by 1933, business had grown enough to include a line of produce and canned goods. Heinen’s Grocery Store was born.

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